Journalist Reese Erlich realizes that the roots of the Syrian civil war are found in history. He gives us the highlights of Middle Eastern history strJournalist Reese Erlich realizes that the roots of the Syrian civil war are found in history. He gives us the highlights of Middle Eastern history stretching back to World War I that are influencing Syria today. He also interviews leaders, rebels, university professors, government analysts, and ordinary people. He discusses the influence of other countries, especially Russia, the United States, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Erlich was raised in a Jewish home in America, and understands the pain felt by those who suffered in the Holocaust. But he also empathizes with the Palestinians who lost their homes. He shows both sides of the conflict between Israel and Palestine that adds to the instability of the Middle Eastern region.
The appendix of the book has a guide to Syrian political groups supporting and opposing Assad. It also has a section explaining the differences in the religious groups in Syria, and which factions (Alawites, Shias, Christians, and Druze) received better jobs and preferential treatment from Assad. The book ends in 2014 as the ultraconservative Sunni rebels, such as ISIS, were becoming more powerful. Erlich has a useful Syria Timeline (starting in 1914) in the back of the book which he has updated on his website, www.reeseerlich.com .
Syria--and the whole Middle Eastern region--have a complex history. The region has a strategic location from a military standpoint, and has large oil and natural gas reserves. The combination of so many competing factions within Syria, plus foreign intervention, has led to a situation with no easy solutions. Erlich's book is not a chunky history text with a huge amount of detail. It is a good overview of the Syrian situation that would be very useful to someone that wants to supplement the news they receive from newspapers and television. ...more
This general history of World War I covers the causes of the war, the major battles on all fronts, the peace treaties, and reparations. It concentrateThis general history of World War I covers the causes of the war, the major battles on all fronts, the peace treaties, and reparations. It concentrates on the military history more than the political and social history of the time. The excellent photographs brought out the human cost of war, the relentless mud in the battlefields, and the horror of extended trench warfare. Boxes highlighted important topics and people, and colored maps showed the lines of battle.
The book shows how industrial advances changed the type of war being fought with better guns, cannons, tanks, ships, and planes being built as the war progressed. The use of railroads and chemical warfare also had a significant effect. The war started with an attritional style of warfare. As World War I progressed, technology played an increasingly important part in winning the battles....more
If I was going to use one word to describe Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919" it would be "detailed". She includes a multitude of backstories about theIf I was going to use one word to describe Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919" it would be "detailed". She includes a multitude of backstories about the delegates and the obstacles they must surmount at the Peace Conference after World War I. The three most important participants were Georges Clemenceau who wanted to protect France from future attacks from Germany, the idealistic Woodrow Wilson who pushed for his Fourteen Points including a League of Nations, and David Lloyd George who was concerned with the interests of the large British Empire and its naval power. Thousands more joined them in Paris to hammer out agreements, redraw national boundaries, and impose reparations.
Wilson's idea of self-determination raised the hopes of groups in many countries, but it was impossible to implement. The Ottoman Empire and the Balkans especially are composed of a mix of ethnic groups. Self-determination was ignored when dividing the spoils in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
MacMillan divides the book into chapters about individual countries, and wrote detailed accounts of the day-to-day decisions regarding them. While a casual reader would probably prefer a little less detail, a historian would value it. Her research is to be admired, and it gives a real understanding of the various perspectives and the compromises reached. Unfortunately, some compromises resulted in national borders that had no good ethnic or geographical reasons. MacMillan does point out artificial boundaries set up at the Peace Conference that led to more unrest in the future, such as the fighting that is still going on in the Middle East.
She does not blame the Treaty of Versailles for Hitler's rise to power, although she felt he used it as propaganda. She feels that the Treaty of Versailles was not responsible for Hitler's wish to expand the boundaries of Germany, and to destroy the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Overall, the book will give the reader a deeper understanding of the world in 1919. "Paris 1919" also showed the root of some of the animosities that exist today....more
"Much of Europe viewed the scattered Balkan provinces, states, and principalities as something of a perpetual menace. 'Some damn foolish thing in the"Much of Europe viewed the scattered Balkan provinces, states, and principalities as something of a perpetual menace. 'Some damn foolish thing in the Balkans,' German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck predicted, would sooner or later plunge all of Europe into a general war." On June 28, 1914, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie were assassinated by a Serbian terrorist in Sarajevo. This was the spark that set off a conflict between Austria and Serbia, drawing in the major countries of Europe due to their alliances, resulting in World War I.
This biography centers on the relationships between Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his family, especially Sophie. The reactionary Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Franz Josef, was not happy to have his nephew, Franz Ferdinand, as his heir. Franz Ferdinand was conservative, arrogant, and militaristic, but he wanted to reform the Austrian Empire by having the numerous states under federal control, similar to the system in the United States. But it was doubtful if the Hungarians would give up any power and agree to that plan. The archduke also did not have the personality of a popular leader, and looked down on the Hungarians and Slavs.
Emperor Franz Josef was even more upset when Franz Ferdinand chose Sophie Chotek as his wife. Sophie came from an aristocratic Bohemian family, but she was not a Habsburg or from one of the reigning European families. She was serving as a lady-in-waiting to a Habsburg archduchess. Eventually they were allowed to marry if Franz Ferdinand agreed to a morganatic marriage, where the archduke's titles and privileges would not pass on to his wife and children since they were of unequal rank. Sophie was made Princess (later Duchess) of Hohenberg, but was treated in a humiliating manner by the court because of her unequal status. Her serene disposition helped her to behave with grace and dignity.
The archduke and his beautiful wife were a romantic, loving couple, and affectionate parents to their three children. King George V and Queen Mary of Great Britain, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany arranged several private meetings with the couple. The archduke enjoyed their friendships and appreciated their kind treatment of his wife.
The book has quite a bit of detail about the events leading up to that fateful day in Sarajevo. "June 28 was St Vitus's Day, or Vitovdan...the Serb national holiday marking the 1389 battle of Kosovo, when the Turkish army had reduced Serbia to vassals of the Ottoman Empire. It was a day on which every Serb vowed revenge against unwelcome foreign intruders, when every Serb nationalist would fight for Greater Serbia." The book raised the question of whether the Austrians played a role in setting up the archduke without adequate security. We'll never know the answer, but it could have been an opportunity to get rid of an unpopular heir to the throne.
The authors wrote a very readable biography of the archduke. They had access to unpublished letters provided by the archduke's grandchildren. The archduke's personal life as a husband and father is presented in a very favorable light. The book also chronicles the difficult lives of the children after their parents' deaths. Quite a bit of history is incorporated into the book, especially about Austria. But more scholarly books should be read by anyone wanting a more complete picture of the conflicts brewing, leading up to World War I. 3 1/2 stars, rounding up to 4 stars....more
This 2010 edition of "World War I" is a revised edition of the late Peter I. Bosco's book, World War I. This very readable book, suitable for high schThis 2010 edition of "World War I" is a revised edition of the late Peter I. Bosco's book, World War I. This very readable book, suitable for high school students, has several multicolor maps and many photographs. The second half of the book highlights the contributions of the American military since it is part of the America at War series. There is also a chapter about new weapons and military technology which were further developed in World War II. While heroes are praised, the book does not glorify war and often mentions the horrific loss of life in World War I.
"The Guns of August" gives an account of the events leading up to the outbreak of World War I, and the first month of battles in August 1914. The writ"The Guns of August" gives an account of the events leading up to the outbreak of World War I, and the first month of battles in August 1914. The writing is colorful and very dense. Some basic knowledge of World War I is helpful since Barbara Tuchman throws out the names of the main players very rapidly in the initial chapters about the causes of the war. The black and white maps are helpful, but not spectacular. The author is an interesting storyteller, looking at many of the politicians and generals with a bit of humor and frustration.
The book concentrates on the Western Front as the German troops moved into Belgium and northeastern France. A few chapters are devoted to the Eastern Front, especially the Battle of Tannenberg. In the Mediterranean the search for the battleship "Goeben" is discussed since its presence in the Dardanelles blocked Russian trade and influenced Turkey to join forces with Germany. The naval presence in the North Sea is also mentioned. The book omits the situation between Austria and the Balkans.
The battles are described in an informative and detailed manner. Better weapons, new technology, and strong planning and organization benefited the Germans. But their "slash and burn" philosophy in the treatment of neutral Belgium brought Britain into the war, and turned US sympathies toward the Allies. Tachman writes vividly about the plight of the infantry (on both sides) who often marched and fought for days before their supplies of food and ammunition finally caught up with them. The book ends dramatically with an account of the first Battle of the Marne in early September 1914 with taxi cabs of soldiers speeding from Paris to the Front. Although the Allies prevented the Germans from entering Paris, the bloodshed had only just begun. "Sucking up lives at a rate of 5,000 and sometimes 50,000 a day, absorbing munitions, energy, money, brains, and trained men, the Western Front ate up Allied war resources....The deadlock, fixed by the failures of the first month, determined the future course of the war and, as a result, the terms of the peace, the shape of the interwar period, and the conditions of the Second Round."...more